By Fidas Muchemwa
IT is a fact that the forces of colonialism and apartheid, which we bitterly fought against and defeated, are regrouping elsewhere hoping to pounce again on Africa. We
must always be on guard against these forces.
That is a challenge to every African youth, especially those who are inheriting and assuming leadership of Africa. What makes the task more challenging is that these evil forces may also manifest in those who once fought them.
But we must keep in mind that now the struggle is against the system and not the colour of man. An evil system, whether it is presided over and perpetrated by white, black or yellow men, remains evil and has to be fought.
Lack of understanding of this duty is what has made many in South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) youth league confused about the current struggles in Zimbabwe. This article is, in part, a response to an article published by the ANC youth league last year and circulated widely this month, and in part tries to highlight what type of a struggle Zimbabweans are engaged in.
South of the Sahara, two political parties with striking similarities in policy are the ANC and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Zimbabwe. Two countries that have similarities in their bad human rights record are Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
It is therefore surprising why the MDC and the ANC, with almost 100% similar policies on the economy and land, do not communicate with each other. It also boggles the mind why South Africa speaks so loud about human rights abuses in Swaziland but adopts its quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe.
One analyst once said the way some elements in the ANC criticise the MDC smacks of hypocrisy and raises more questions than answers. It is unclear why the ANC encourages Zimbabwe to go ahead with its haphazard and violent land reform but establishes a commission on restitution of land rights which, among others, has a duty to make sure that land disputes are resolved amicably and with speed. The commission is also responsible for ensuring that people who obtain land as a result of court orders are assisted and put the land to proper use.
Why does the ANC choose the way of a land court and a commission and not just assemble a strong team of Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans to invade all white-owned farms and industries like what Zanu PF’s war veterans are doing?
The free market economic policy that the ANC quietly practises is in tandem with what the MDC preaches. Yet the ANC is at the forefront of demonising the MDC as a party that does not have Zimbabweans’ interests at heart. One asks: what could be Zimbabwean interests that are of no interest to South Africans? One wonders if the criticism of the MDC by the ANC is not meant to perpetuate Zimbabweans’ suffering by promoting ill-conceived Zanu PF policies.
Thousands of Zimbabweans who ran away from the effects of Zanu PF’s policies are today providing cheap labour in South Africa. South Africa is exporting its sub-standard products to Zimbabwe because the latter has no more production to talk of.
It is true that land formed the basis on which the liberation struggle was fought. And today land remains the best weapon to fight poverty in Africa where the majority of blacks emerged from colonialisation and apartheid more impoverished.
This is why we continue to encourage the ANC to resettle the majority of black South Africans who, 10 years after the attainment of freedom, still live in congested and unproductive lands. But the struggle in Zimbabwe is not a struggle for land. Vast tracts of land lie unused in Zimbabwe. No black Zimbabwean ever objected to the idea of land redistribution.
Lack of transparency in the process is what the people are not happy with. The transfer of land from a few rich whites to a few rich and politically powerful blacks is what people are fighting against in Zimbabwe – and that is only as far as land is concerned.
Zanu PF had, as the ANC still has, the opportunity to address the historical land imbalances. But the Zanu PF government chose otherwise. As such it has actually deepened the tensions by simply transferring vast tracts of land from a white minority to a black minority of its supporters.
The majority of black Zimbabweans who were denied land because they support the opposition still need the land. This huge fraud must be corrected. All Zimbabweans who need land must have a fair share.
At the core of Zimbabwe’s crisis at the moment is a leader who has lost touch with his people. The crisis in Zimbabwe is the reincarnation of Ian Smith in the form of Mugabe. The crisis in Zimbabwe is one of systematic, constant yet conscious denial of food to the people, leading to starvation. The crisis is about the curtailment of people’s freedoms.
Today, 24 years after Independence, the Zanu PF government has enacted all pieces of legislation that Smith used to arrest, torture and kill blacks before Independence.
The Public Order and Security Act, which says any meeting of more than two people is a crime punishable by a jail term, is in every sense a replica of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act that Smith used against freedom fighters. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is a tool that makes it virtually impossible for media houses that are not government-controlled to operate. This is part of the crisis that Zimbabweans are facing.
Can we talk of freedom in South Africa if the ANC reenacts all the pieces of legislation that the apartheid government used against blacks and starts using them against people who don’t support the ANC.? Can we talk of prosperity in South Africa if the ANC starts to violently grab land and gives it only to its supporters? This is the situation obtaining in Zimbabwe and this is what the people of Zimbabwe are struggling against.
Nelson Mandela was once asked whether the relationship between the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe and the Communist Party meant that the ANC wanted to establish a communist state. This is what he said: “It is true that there has often been close cooperation between the ANC and the Communist party. But cooperation is merely proof of a common goal – in this case the removal of white supremacy – and it is not proof of a complete community of interests . . .
“It is perhaps difficult for white South Africans with an ingrained prejudice against communism to understand why experienced African politicians so readily accept communists as their friends. But to us the reason is obvious. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression are a luxury we cannot afford at this stage.”
Today, four decades later, it seems we have not learnt anything from Mandela. The prophetic statement that he said from the dock on April 20 1964 is today true about Zimbabweans.
Zimbabweans today welcome anyone who furthers their goals – to remove a dictator from power, to free themselves from repression by their government – but that does not represent a complete community of interests. Theoretical differences are a luxury that the suffering masses of Zimbabwe cannot afford. This, as Madiba said, is perhaps difficult for some of our South African colleagues who have an ingrained prejudice against Zimbabwean opposition movements.
Good leaders are seen by taking responsibilities. This is what has eluded some of our colleagues. The outdated strategy of denying responsibilities and blaming our history for every wrong that befalls us does not yield results. Should we continue to look back to our painful history and risk losing the opportunities that the future presents for the young people of Africa?
Since the formation of the opposition MDC in September 1999, more than 400 people have allegedly been killed by Zanu PF machinery – youth militia, war veterans and Central Intelligence Organisation operatives. Thousands have been subjected to violence and torture.
Tens of thousands are now homeless and destitute in their country of birth.
Millions are refugees in Botswana, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the US. Their one and only crime is that they support the opposition party.
Those people are not the racist British, neither are they Rhodies. And their killings are not taking place in Canberra or Warwickshire. They are black Zimbabweans who also took up arms and fought against colonialism in defence of the fatherland.
It is saddening that many champions of democracy, including the ANC youth league, decided to keep quiet when lack of democracy is the real cause of the suffering of Zimbabweans. It is so hypocritical how we are so articulate about what is happening overseas but remain mum on what is happening just across the river.
In as much as we are required to report for duty and stand combat-ready to defend our hard-won freedoms, we need to address the insurmountable task of exorcising the demon of apartheid and colonialism from among us. The forces, as alluded to before, may be gathering elsewhere but the spirit mediums of apartheid and colonialism are wreaking havoc among us.
The element of selfishness that made apartheid survive for many decades is settling in us. Decades into our Independence we still seem not knowledgeable that the purpose of liberation struggles was not simply to transfer power from white hands to black hands but to practise the ideals we so much fought for.
It is interesting to note the audacity and noise with which we attack the West as a way of dismissing the political scene obtaining in our backyards. It is cause for concern that the youth of Africa who are supposed to be the vanguard of these ideals have been adulterated upon and today serve only as rhetorists and loudspeakers of our leaders. Even though some of us for now still ride on the wave of credibility that people like Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu built, very soon we will be called by nature for a credibility test. Only time will tell.
* Fidas Muchemwa works for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition South Africa desk.